I Didn’t Get a Chance to Lose On Jeopardy, Baby

Fields are drying back up, which means I have to get ready to go back to work, which means that I’m about to go on hiatus again.

But before I go, I was wondering if anyone else in the good side of the blogosphere has ever tried out for Jeopardy. I know on the bad side, there’s the Pod Person, but what about our peeps?

Just curious. I tried out last year online. Got invited to St. Louis to take the written test and play some practice games.

I missed one or at most two (out of fifty) on the written test — and I say missed because I guessed those answers with a fair shot, not that I was totally stumped in a George W. Bush clueless nimrod sort of way. In the practice game, while score wasn’t taken I counted correct answers and by my reckoning came out ahead in my group (though I did ring in and miss one question, which I actually knew but brainfarted). It was fun. Got through the interview, didn’t lock-up; when it was my turn to answer “what would you do with the money if you won?”, after saying, like everyone else, ‘travel’, I told them I’d use the money on restoring and enlarging the (very small) house my great great-grandfather built and in which I live. This seemed to go over pretty well, as did the novelty of my some-time occupation and my yokely, Clintony accent. When they asked about hobbies, I said blogging and mentioned S,N! Eh, but the first post they would have seen under the byline of Retardo Montalban would have been that one where I said Mark Kleiman sucked giant green hairy goat balls — which, while not literally true, was a perfectly just thing to write. Well, I told them it was a political humor blog.

Anyway, I was pretty confident that I’d get a call. Not Cliff Clavin confident, but let us say, reasonably optimistic. But it never came — or if it did, it was during the month and a half last fall that I didn’t have a working phone. Who knows? They never tell you what you made on your tests — and you never call them, they call you. It is a mystery!

This year when it was time for online tryouts again, I sighed and almost signed up. Then I saw that the closest test center to me this time was deep in Texas. Too far. And plus, Texas. Shudder. I didn’t bother. But I hope to try again.

So if you ever see a long-haired doofus on that show, with a yokel accent and the signature underneath him so illegible it looks like it was written by a Parkinson’s sufferer in an earthquake, it might be me.


Comments: 50


Bob Harris, orig. of This Modern World and eventually bobharris.com (I think), has a book about his experiences on Jeopardy called “Prisoner Of Trebekestan”.


Fields are drying back up

Fields? What kind of fields?


Sally Fields is drying up? Oh God, no!!!
Seriously, what does that mean? Are you a farmer?


moron — marijuana!

merl – among many things.


Anna, thanks. That’s one.


Maybe you should try out for The Price is Right?


“Bob Harris, orig. of This Modern World and eventually bobharris.com (I think), has a book about his experiences on Jeopardy called “Prisoner Of Trebekistanâ€?.”

You REALLY gotta borrow that one and read it. It ain’t all about ‘Jeopardy’ neither. One fun read, dat.

Besides, it’ll help pass the time workin’ on Maggie’s Farm.


What sort of farmer are you?


A Potfarmer. Duh. I mean, *look* at me.


I tried out years ago when I was active duty and they were collecting potential contestants for military week. I did fairly well on the written portion, but failed to advance. Sigh. Got to meet Trebek though.

I was also told that they have somewhere in the neighborhood of 25,000 people in their pool of potential contestants at any given time.


I’d never make it as a contestant on Jeopardy, but I’d make a damn fine crop tester…


Last time I took the test was a couple of years ago in Memphis.
Actually got through to the next round. There were only seven out of more than 50 in that group to do that.

No call backs. Sigh.


I tried out for Scientology once but it took so long to score the fucking test that I left.


I did the test/audition thing about ten years ago, and got called within a few weeks. Went on the show a few weeks later and … lost. $0. Got a trip to Knott’s Berry Farm and some Sue-Bee honey out of the deal. (More here: http://www.geocities.com/michaeljplank/jeopardy.html).

It was explained to me at the time that all who got through the first two steps would be on “the list” to be called during that season. I don’t know what criteria they use to actually contact people to appear on the show. Harris’ book, which I haven’t read, seems the best source.

Stop The War.

Incontinentia Buttocks

I twice made it into the contestant pool in the early 1990s. Never got on the show, however.


I plan to try out for Jeopardy sometime, in the unlikely event that I ever have time. (I’m older than dirt but am going back to college full time evenings and planning to work days, so time is not really an available resource at this juncture.)

I should actually try for Wheel of Fortune. I’m pretty sure i could kick ass on that show, judging from the dumbasses they usually have on there. Plus, I could say leftist things and make Sajak’s hideous hair curl and fall out.

“Well, Miss Candy, you’ve won $10,000. What do you intend to do with the money,” asks Pat (Bad Hair) Sajak.

“Our every action is a battle cry against imperialism. Hasta la victoria siemprè!” cries Candy.



I did the same thing you did, in the ’80’s–went to St. Louis. They showed us the Alex video and all us nerds took the test; I’m sure I didn’t do very well. I’ve always given people this advice: You want to be on Jeopardy!, subscribe to Time and Newsweek and read them, cover to cover, every week, for five years. The “answers” in the screening part of the test are nothing like those on the show; they’re looking for people who are up on all sorts of world events and popular culture, and not sheltered dweebs who are fonts of trivial information. Real people play better on their show than does Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius.


I stopped reading Newsweek cover-to-cover (well, at all) over ten years ago, and am still recovering. Damn rag is slimy with sensibleliberalitis bacteria. And George Will is like the anti-gravy. You pour it on your mashed potatoes, and the gravy, butter, and hearty potato flavor that were already there vanish, leaving naught but an aftertaste.


Besides, once you’ve been on Jeopardy, you can pretend that Weird Al is singing JUST FOR YOU.


I’m pretty sure Kevin Drum tried out for Jeopardy. I assume he had a similar experience to yours and wasn’t asked to be on for who knows what reason.


I was on the show in my pre-blogosphere days (it aired March 2003 – Shock and Awe, baby!). Considering that they didn’t have to have me fly in because I live in LA, I had a slight advantage. But it took about 5 months between the time I tried out and the time that they called. In fact, I had totally forgotten about it.

I did take away $12 grand. If you do make it on, remember that it’s all about the buzzer. You cannot buzz in to answer a question until they manually flip on a set of lights that you can’t see in the TV broadcast. Essentially, 40-50% of the questions are known to everyone on the stage, and it’s just a matter of who buzzes in first. Practice with a ball-point pen.


Besides, once you’ve been on Jeopardy, you can pretend that Weird Al is singing JUST FOR YOU.

Weird All does Your sing for me.


I tried out twice, once in L.A. in the mid-80’s once in Chicago about a decade later. Both times, I aced the written test and the mock games, but never got the call-back for True Contestanthood. I don’t take it personally — they probably have a pool about four times as big as they need for each season. I think about doing it every once in a while — my mother-in-law loves to tell me when the tryouts are going to be around here — but I’m just not motivated enough.


Now it’s my turn to bitch about needing a preview button…


I knew one of the former Grand Champeens of Jeopardy — he was a friend of a friend of mine in L.A. — and we once helped him “train” for the Tournament of Champions. You used to be able to rig up multiple sets of the home version electronic buzzers so (a) they would be locked out until the “host” unlocked them after reading the question and (b) the first person to buzz in would lock out the others. Good practice for the real buzzers.


I’m acquaintances with Jerome Vered, who was once the all-time money winner (or one-day winner, or something), and was on the celebrity showdown a year or so ago.

I tried a few times, via the first level of phone-in multiple choice questions, and I couldn’t fucking get past THOSE. Yes, I’m bitter.


I made it on. Look at my name for chrissakes. I tried out when the Brain Bus came through the city next to mine. I made the pool and they called me.

Now if you lose (3rd Place) you get $1,000. 2nd place gets 2 grand. So even if you lose, your trip’s paid for.

DDay’s right, the buzzer’s key. You gotta think 80-85% of the clues at least two of the players know it and then it’s just about buzzing in first. I got lucky in my first game going against slowpokes and got a rhythm going. Tournament of Champions I got hosed by really good champs. So I lost my last regular Jeopardy game (duh), my first TOC game but made the semis as a wildcard, and lost my second TOC game. So I lost on Jeopardy three times ina row. Wow!

The Time and Newsweek idea’s good, even though I think you’re set in that category judging by your hilarious blog. I’d recommend Shakespeare and Bible reacquainting.

Good luck.


I tried out (with the written test and the practice game) in fall ’05. Didn’t get a call back. I’m going to an interview next Thursday in Orlando. woo.


Eyup, it’s all about the buzzer. It’s a given that all three people on stage can answer a certain percentage of the questions, the trick is knowing how to ring in.
Back in the day the button on the buzzer had a bit of play in it, you could depress it at least half-way before the system triggered and that milisecond’s advantage could be huge. College Bowl buzzers worked the same way so any college bowl jock had an edge. Of couse in the college tournament just about everyone was a college bowl jock so we all cancelled each other out.
Last time I was on the buzzers were tighter, they triggered much faster (f’n Sony).

I’ve had a good time on Jeopardy and met alot of nice folks.

As for advice for getting on – hmm, well it’s a good time, not as good as when Merv was still running things, but still a good time so it’s worth giving it a go. Be open. Be straightforward. Be pleasant. Alot of the tryout team have been doing this for years so they know when you’re trying to play them – Don’t. Having a memorable hook helps but only if it’s genuine, Alex likes having some quirky little thing to ask you about (and if they as you for a couple he -will- go for the most embarassing thing). Trying out more than once will probably help you. They might remember you from before and that could be to your advantage. If you recognize any of the tryout team from your previous tryout make sure you say hello.

Good Luck.


Just for the record…


I am so old that I [Thomas Sowell] was on Jeopardy before Alex Trebek was on Jeopardy…

Principal Blackman

I tried to be on College Jeopardy, but they do the contestant search a little bit differently, I think…youcan’t just go to the test-taking place, you have to submit your name to basically a random lottery and hope you get picked to take the test, which I did not. Oh well. My plan was to do my best to win, but if it became apparent I wasn’t going to win, I would buzz in and give as many funny answers as possible. I thought it was a pretty good plan.

I really want to be on the regular show, too, but I know that I have major knowledge gaps in subjects they love to use on the show–opera, art, vice presidents–and would have to do some serious boning up to even have a chance.


Well, I qualified some years ago, when I was living in Louisiana – we went through a written screening test, then a mock game (I can’t remember if I won, so I probably didn’t). But the scoundrels never called me to be on TV *sniff* Maybe it was the baby-eating during the breaks…..

Prudence Goodwife

” if you ever see a long-haired doofus”

Maybe you’re not TV material. I have tried out, over the years, for Jeopardy, Weakest Link, Millionaire, Idiot Savant and most recently World Series of Pop Culture. I have done well on every written test & practice game, even winning 3 of them very convincingly and I have never received a call back once. I have seen people I beat make it to tv more than once. I am not the type they are looking for. I too have long hair and also extensive tattooing and more than 1 earring.

I am convinced that there is a concpiracy to keep freaky people from looking smart on tv.
In HS, when I looked like your average nerd, my school won the HS Bowl, a local cable game show, so it’s not like I didn’t have experience.

I am done with game shows now. It’s just a big ego thing for me anyway. Good Luck too all who are still in the struggle to answer pointless questions for money.


The first time I tried out was a decade or so ago, when the trials were still held in the studio where the set was. I brain-freezed on a couple of simple questions and didn’t make the cut to the next phase.

Then about 5 years ago, I went to LA and tried out again, passing the written test with no problem, and got as far as the point where they said the next word we’d hear (if any) would be a call to appear. Didn’t happen.

Last spring, they ran the initial weeding-out via an online test, then I did another stage when they came to the Northwest, and got through to the “pool” phase again. Still no call, although I’ve seen at least one of the people who tested with me on the show. So, third time was not a charm.

They really do get a lot of submissions.


I tried out in Seattle – it must have been 1993, early 90’s anyway. I was feeling pretty good about the video/written test until I got to question #50 and realized that I was putting the answer in the space for question 49. I don’t know where I screwed up (think it was a fine art question – art, what the fuck do I know about art?) but as you probably guessed I didn’t advance. To top it off, while walking towards my bus stop I was hit up by a panhandler for a smoke – I didn’t give him one (I only had two left and it was 3-4 days before payday) he threatened me with his walking stick. I was kind of pissed and I over did it when I told him what I would do to him with that stick if he hit me with it. I still feel kind of bad about it.

Mrs. Tarquin Biscuitbarrel

Since I used to watch “Jeopardy!” when I was a kid, when Art Fleming was host, and beat all the grownups, I desperately wanted to be a contestant. But it went off the air before I was old enough, and in any case, the show then was filmed in New York and I lived on the West Coast.

Fast forward to 1987. “Jeopardy!” had come back on the air the year before. My husband and I and our eldest, then an infant, flew to LA for a wedding, and before we left, my husband literally forced me to make an appointment to try out. (If you live in or near LA, or plan to come there on your own dime, you can just call in and do this; at least, you could then.) So I did. I passed the written test, I passed the “on your feet” personality test, and was flown out a month later to compete. Of the 52 people in my testing group, two ended up as contestants.

I was a one-time champion and earned a big chunk o’ change. One of my Lovely Parting Gifts for losing was an elegant piece of furniture I still treasure. When my oldest kid turned five, he asked, “Mama, doesn’t it really kill you that you didn’t make the Tournament of Champions?”

Well, yes, but actually getting to participate and win at something I’d dreamed of since I was a child was oh, so worth it. People recognized me ON THE STREET!

The only bad side of being on “Jeopardy!” is hearing the heartbroken or upset comments of people who either didn’t make the cut or who made it on the show only to lose. (Like ironicname, above: I’m sorry, dear!)


An Atriot named Sinfonian got on Jeopardy last year and won some beeg dolares, wheech he has no yet shared weeth the rest of us.

(bathe, bathe)


Not generally a Jeopardy watcher, but during my random media-studies readings I remember seeing there is a certain “look” the testers want from the competitors. And when Trebeck was asked what that “look” was, he replied “Mormon”.

Which is probably the academic version of an urban legend. However, at one time in my career I got to watch insurance training videos made in half a dozen different Southeast Asian nations, and after the first few sittings we didn’t need the graphics to tell us where a particular video had been filmed. Even the semi-professional Singaporeans, for example, came across on camera like they’d been busted by your local news network for running a small-scale shoplifting operation. The Indonesians, on the other hand, were amazing… a six-year-old dragged into the limelight because her mother couldn’t find a babysitter that day would perform better than many American professional actors. Which is to say, there IS an art to looking good on camera, and perhaps a culture where everyone is expected to “perform” in front of a crowd (Indonesians, or god-&-the-elders-are-watching-you Mormons?) trains its members better at this art. Stuff like looking straight at the camera, reducing random body movements, indicating attention without either seeming either twitchy or frozen. Things that can be practiced in the privacy of your own basement, with a little help from your video-taping friends. Plus a certain amount of brutal honesty, because if there’s one thing we’ve learned from American Idol it’s that many Americans haven’t the faintest idea just how lousy they look/sing/dance/perform…


Drinking buddy of mine tried out for it, and got as far as competing with other folks in timed competition before he went down. I forget how it all worked out, but it was basically like the show but not televised. See, we figured his problem was that his competitors weren’t drunk like at the trivia night. We cleaned up on them things, he and I, and did several sheets in the wind, but he found himself with insufficient button speed. I know another guy who got on the show, but had to cancel because his wife’s due date was too close. This guy’s scary-smart, and I sometimes think he figures he can go on and whip ass whenever he needs to, but getting all that good early daddy stuff just comes once.

I used to be pretty good at timed trivia games. I paid for half my college education with something called a “Scholar’s Bowl”, which was like bar trivia with math. Three straight years in high school my team won and three straight years I wound up answering the most questions. I don’t know if it’s still good, but another similar competition I took part in netted me $1500 to Ole Miss, but there was no way in hell I was going to stay in Mississippi out of high school.

Never occurred to me to try out for Jeopardy. Maybe I should’ve, when I was younger and still a bit full of myself, but the thought really doesn’t appeal to me now. Dunno if it’s a general dislike of competition for money (which keeps me from poker these days) or a general dislike of being onstage with people paying attention to me (which keeps me from playing in bads). Plus, there’s been a lot of that good Georgia stumble weed in the time since my glory days of trivia, and that has to have taken a bit of the edge off.

Still, you get a chance to do such a thing or even just the urge, I say go for it. Sounds like a hoot. Not like you got anything better to do, right?


I tried out, thought I aced it, but didn’t get picked. As part of the deal however I had to agree to sit through the last dress rehearsal of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire before it was launched. That was a real trial that went horribly too, I couldn’t ring in fast enough to answer a question. Oh well at least I wasted some money going to NY.


Wait… You mean I could have been the victim of… Looksism???

Eeep! That’s it. I’m making peace with the sammich people and am filing a lawsuit against Jeopardy for violating my civil rights.


i’m glad bob harris has been mentioned. his book is hilarious and he’s a great guy too.

i tried out but didn’t make it. but a very good friend of mine, not a blogger but a former comedian like yours truly, did get on, but came in third in final jeaopardy.

he agrees, the buzzer is the key.


does anyone else suspect that this post is HTML’s way of making Trevino and Goldstein obsessively watch Jeopardy, and maybe learn something?


Not Jeopardy, but about 6 years ago I did try out for “Win Ben Stein’s Money” (he wan’t there). Never heard back.


Buddy from college was a 5-day winner back when they capped you at 5 days. Came back and won the champions thing too. Paid his way through graduate school and then some.

Smiling Mortician

Huh. Guess I’m the only one here who’s never tried out for Jeopardy and hasn’t even actually considered doing so. OTOH, after reading this thread I’m that much closer to Alex Trebek in Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon . . .


Wait… You mean I could have been the victim of… Looksism???

I think for guys the proper name is “Performance Anxiety”, isn’t it?


I’ve tried two or three times (as I live in the very bowels of the entertainment beast, it’s no problem to get there, so why not…) First &/or second time was at KTLA Channel 5 where the show was shot at the time (late 80s). They woulld put an ad in the classifeds of the L. A. Times in the “Game Show Contestants” section come March or April. The written test was always easy, either aced it or missed one of fifty questions, and both times was among the three or four who passed out of fifty or so, then they made us play the game, which is a whole other thing than writing the answers or playing along at home! The first time we were given those little bells you used to see on the counter at the dry cleaners in case the proprietor was in back getting cancer or whatever, rather than the actual buzzers used on the show. Anyway, I didn’t play too well, or wasn’t filled w/ enough “personality,” ‘tho I think one time they said they might call me. Can’t remember what length my hair was then, that might have been a factor, ‘tho I’ve seen a few hair-farmers on the show, so…
The second (or third) time the try outs were on the Sony lot, & since, hippie weirdo that I am, I had no car, I didn’t show up at parking lot whatever in the back, where they herd the sheep together & walk them all over to the stage; instead I just showed up at the front gate, which confused the guard no end, but he eventually let me in & sent me to the show offices, naturally they weren’t expecting any one not in the herd of automobilists, but had me wait for a few minutes, then someone who was headed for the stage escorted me over. This time they showed the questions on monitors, with an intro by Alex, and you just filled out the sheet, and when I again came through, with just a few of the others, we played the game with the actual buzzers. In an attempt to demonstrate “personality” I said “Damn!” once when I missed a question, and was quickly advised I couldn’t say that. End result was they said I qualified, but it was late in the season, so they might not call me. And they didn’t.
However, as I didn’t have to leave w/ the car driving sheep, I was able to wander the Sony lot, which used to be MGM. That was interesting, wandering the same bogus streets that all the stars now visible on TCM wandered. (Post 9/11 lot security is mighty different, I’ll tell ya.)
As mentioned above, you can’t click in until the lights go on, which alledgedly occurs during the last syllable of Alex T.’s question, and if you click early you’re locked out for several (30?) seconds, in which case you’re screwed unless the other two are complete doofuses & have drawn a blank. Practicing with a clickable ball-point in front of the tube is excellent, as stated above. I know some people just thumb through general reference books. (You can usually get last year’s Answer Please or TIME Alamnac or whatever at some fucking Nazi chain bookstore [yes, Borders fired me once] on the remainder table for a couple bucks.) And of course bone up on gaps in knowledge, I for one don’t know squat about Oscar winners.
As far as appearance goes, I currently have hair longer then Mr. Mecken’s in his profile photo (piker) but I’ve been known to have it considerably shorter, I just can’t remember how low it hung in those late 80s, early 90s when I took my shot. Also, the hair is blond & the eyes are blue & I’m about as male as a man can be, whereas they’re looking for a more diverse crowd these days, so even though I wore a sport coat & button down shirt they may have preferred less male, darker toned folks. (Of course when Art Fleming was hosting & Don Pardo was announcing in the 60s it was all honky, all male all the time. I guess you wimmenfolk really did need to be liberated!)
Two more quickies: My business card identifies me as “The H. L. Mencken of the Blank Generation,” so I guess HTML Mencken is my metaphorical descendant. And for those of you who live in, or may visit, the belly of the entertainment beast, if you hit the intersection of Fairfax & Sunset, besides spotting losers like Rod Stewart at Bristol Farms, look north on Fairfax, up, up, up, to the huge beige house on the tippy-tip-top of the hill there, the house that’s round in the middle (seriously, it’s huge, it’s on top, you can’t miss it, virtually all other mansions up there are hidden behind trees) and YES! you are looking at Alex Trebek’s house! (Or at least it was rumored to have been his house, & he may well have moved since then, but still.) He supposedly lived a “bachelor” life there, with his aging mother, cooking & wine-tasting. Just sayin’, y’know.
Good luck to all you polymaths with your Jeopardy aspirations! Break a leg!


Roger Owen Green was on the show some years back.


Continuing with what ¡El Gato Negro! said, Sinfonian was indeed on Jeopardy!, and was a five-time champion.

(He’s a good friend and frat brother, and we watched a couple of his episodes when he joined my wife and I for Thanksgiving this past year.)



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